August 2013. According to ProMED (27 August 2013), a rare disease has been found on a popular banana variety in the Howard Springs rural area near Darwin [Northern Territory]. It is the 1st report of banana freckle disease on Cavendish bananas in Australia.
Banana freckle has been recorded previously [in Australia], but only on Lady Finger and Bluggoe (cooking) varieties of bananas in both the NT [Northern Territory] and North Queensland.
Affected properties have immediately been placed under quarantine in order to prevent further movement of the disease. Surveillance teams are currently visiting the area. There are no commercial banana farms near the affected properties.
Cavendish varieties include most of the commercial eating bananas. Until now, the Cavendish strain of the fungus had not been reported from mainland Australia, but was known to occur in several countries in SouthEast Asia, including the Philippines and Taiwan, and suspected in other areas such as India and several islands of Indonesia. While only a small part of the national banana production comes from the NT, main commercial banana growing regions in Queensland are now at risk from a possible spread of the new strain. Furthermore, the origin of the infection is as yet unknown and this may represent a threat from additional quarantine incursions.
Although the CABI Plant Protection Compendium says that Freckle is common across the Pacific region, it begs the question what is actually present? Is it Freckle disease on Cavendish subgroup banana plants or Freckle on plantains (AAB genome) and cooking bananas (ABB genome)?
It would be interesting to know if anyone commonly sees this disease on Cavendish banana plants on any islands in the Pacific other than those of Hawai’i, where it is well known. It is easy to spot as the leaves with infections feel rough to the touch, like sandpaper.
Recent research in Australia* has shown that what was originally considered to be ‘Cavendish competent’ and ‘cooking banana and plantain’ strains of the one fungus (Phyllosticta musarum) are actually four separate Phyllosticta species. The data in that paper published last year includes three records of the newly named species P. cavendishii from two locations in the Pacific which are not Hawai’i, but the host for one is not known, the other is an AAB/ABB banana.
*Wong MH, Crous PW, Henderson J, Groenwald JZ, Drenth A (2012). Phyllosticta species associated with freckle disease of banana. Fungal Diversity 56, 173-187. See: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13225-012-0182-9#page-1.
Note, the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Darwin, Northern Territory, has provided additional info to the Pestnet posts on Freckle disease on Cavendish bananas in Australia. The recent detection in the Northern Territory is the third in Australia, not the first. There have been two previous detections of Freckle on Cavendish in Western Australia. One in 1979, the other in 2001.